Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Good afternoon guys. It’s always great to stand before you on a Monday after a win at home especially. It’s a great job by our football team yesterday, coming away with a hard-fought win for our team. Can’t say enough about the preparation and the fact that our coaching staff consistently pushes our players to be the very best they can be, then to see our players go out and execute as well as they have each and every game plan we put before them, it’s been exciting to see. They’re playing with great consistency across the board and seem to be improving in a lot of key areas which gives us a lot of hope as we go forward. Injury wise, Adrian [Peterson] had a mild ankle sprain yesterday, played through it, did a great job, had a very good football game for us. Running with such authority and being able to break tackles the way he did throughout the game even though he was a little bit hobbled with that ankle. We don’t think there is anything that will keep him from playing this next ball game. He should be fine going forward. We’ll know a little bit more about Jerome Simpson’s leg, he still has a the lower leg weakness that we talked about. They’re running some tests this morning so we’ll have a little better idea as the day goes on with the MRI. We think there could possibly be something connected to the back as well as the leg so still trying to get some clarification. We’ll have more information as the day goes along. Other than that we’re pretty good. We expect to get Marvin Mitchell back to practice this week along with Andrew Sendejo, we expect to get him back as well. Nobody else is really showing up with any major injuries so we should be pretty good. Christian [Ponder] was fine, you saw him moving around well. There were no problems with him yesterday. So from an injury standpoint, we’re in pretty good shape, Jerome probably being the one that we’re probably most concerned about.
Q: What’s stood out so far between the collaboration between Alan Williams and the defensive guys?
A: When we made the decision to bring Alan aboard, part of it was hoping and knowing and believing that he would have a good rapport with the players from a communication standpoint. I thought that was one of his strengths and that is exactly the way things have turned out. He does a good job of communicating to our players about what the expectations are at every position and how each guy fits into what we’re trying to get done. To see that collaboration between he, along with our defensive staff and our players, it’s shown on the football field. They’re playing with great energy, you can see the guys are playing with confidence, they’re in the spots they should be, and when they’re in those spots they’re able to make some plays for us. It’s been a great thing to watch come along. We also know we have a lot of work to do going forward but we have really made tremendous strides.
Q: His willingness for feedback and getting players input?
A: I think that’s a big deal when you’re in a leadership role. That’s exactly where he is right now. His ability to be able to listen to what the players have to say and not always feel like he has to be right, that’s a good quality to have. He’s done a good job of listening to some of their suggestions, incorporating some of them, along with being able to say no when he needs to say no.
Q: Are you surprised how quickly this team has come along?
A: I think if we had not had an offseason, I probably would be surprised but the fact that we could go through an entire offseason with them and begin to really shape things and get them the way we wanted them, and let the players be around Alan and his philosophy along with what we wanted to get done. I think if we had not had an offseason and we were playing like this, I probably would be surprised but so much of what we’re doing now is a direct effect of what happened during this offseason. I feel like we’re about where we should be and we should just hopefully continue to improve.
Q: What’s made the biggest difference since the Indianapolis game?
A: I think guys, along with the coaches, just honing in on what we do best. A part of our early problems were what we were doing situationally and two-minute football. We were playing some good defense but we weren’t playing good situational football. Since that Indianapolis game, we’ve gotten a lot better at the situational football and part of that is, Alan having a better feel for our players and what their strengths and weaknesses are along with our players really taking some accountability as to what is being asked of them. The reflection of that is the success we’re having on defense. Guys are really honing in on what they’ve been asked to do at certain parts of the game, the reflection has been the success that we’re having on defense.
Q: With all the offensive production, do you still think your defense is going to carry you?
A: Well, you know I’m a little biased, having a defensive background. It almost feels like that was a set-up question. I can’t get away from what I believe. I was talking to Jim (Schwartz) last week about how I think you win in our League and do it for the long-term, not the short-term. I believe being able to play good defense, being able to stop the run and not give up big plays in the passing game gives you a chance at being successful every week. If your special teams can do a great job in that area as well where you can win that special teams battle, along with being able to run the football, not turning the ball over, and when you get people playing eight or nine men fronts, being able to have a quarterback who can execute in those situations, I think that’s a winning formula. I’ve seen it as a player and I’ve always believed it as a coach as well. If you’re not playing good defense in my mind, it’s just hard to win in our League. I know there are some teams who buck that a little bit by putting up a lot of points and a lot of yards, but I just think in the long-term, to be good in our League for a long period, and that’s what we’re hoping to be able to do, not just a one-year wonder or two or three-game wonder, we want to be a football team that’s going to be good for a long period of time. You need to play good defense and we’re doing that right now. The results are, we’re on the upside from a win-loss standpoint.
Q: How much as Jasper Brinkley grown and improved with his coverage and do you feel comfortable putting him in that Nickel spot going forward?
A: Yes, it’s funny you asked that. I was just sitting down, talking with Erin Henderson about his role and how things will be going forward. Jasper has done a good job in Erin’s absence playing the Nickel Mike position, really increased our confidence in his abilities to be able to handle that role. As we go forward, we’ll continue to talk about what will happen with Erin in that role. Erin did a good job in our base defense yesterday, didn’t get any snaps in the Nickel, but the way Jasper is playing, it’s hard to take him off the field in those Nickel situations. He’s doing a good job. He’s grown, he always felt like he could do it if we gave him an opportunity and he’s showing it. He’s capable. But we do think Erin is good as the Nickel Mike as well.
Q: When did Jerome Simpson come to you and say something was wrong?
A: We didn’t know anything was wrong until the morning of the game. I got a call yesterday, I got a call, a text actually from Eric Sugarman saying there was something wrong with Jerome. Then when I got to the stadium and he comes in my office and explains to me what’s going on, it wasn’t the conversation I was expecting to have on a day of the game. We had a big package for Jerome in this game, we really felt like there were some things we could utilize his abilities and make some plays for us. We took him out on the field and began to try to do some things just so I could get a gauge of should we have him up, if we’re going to have to put him down, where things are. So it wasn’t until just a few hours before the game that he came in and told us that he was having some weakness, really couldn’t push off on that leg. It was a quandary for him and for all of us. Our doctors took a look at him and after we worked him out, they didn’t feel like he was going to be in jeopardy if he played, we had five receivers dressed, normally we’ve been dressing four receivers. We were doing that more for Michael Jenkins because of his injuries during the course of the week. As it turned out, it worked out fine, now we just have to find out exactly what’s going on with him.
Q: Did he say this dates back a couple of weeks?
A: I asked him that when we were on the field and we were talking in my office there at the stadium. This has never happened to him before so this was completely new for him and so as you can imagine, it scared him, had him alarmed but we’ll learn more here over the course of the day.
Q: Is there some numbness that goes along with it?
A: There is, yeah. He did have some numbness.
Q: He just woke up with it?
A: Yeah, just woke up in the morning. Just had some numbness, some weakness. Fine when he was walking, but just had a little trouble pushing off and we were hoping that as time went on, he’d regain that feeling over the course of the game because in talking with the doctors, they felt like that was possible and it did get a little bit better but not to the point where he felt completely comfortable.
Q: Do you think this could be a long-term deal for him?
A: I hope not. We’ll learn more, as I mentioned, throughout the day but from everything I’ve been told, we shouldn’t be afraid to the point where we’re going to lose him for a long period of time but everything is not conclusive as we speak.
Q: Adrian Peterson said he lost some focus after he tweaked his ankle early in the game. Does that surprise you?
A: Not completely, just knowing he is still human, although sometimes he does things you say, ‘Man, this guy is so different than everyone else.’ When it’s the same leg where you had the knee injury, I can see there being a little bit of doubt in your mind about what is going to happen next but to his credit once again, he kept himself together, got back on the field, he ran great. Just being able to shake that off, put the foot back in the ground again and just say, ‘Okay, I’m alright. I’m fine. There’s nothing wrong.’ And that’s exactly what he did and he played that way. He played with confidence and he ran hard. There were no runs where you looked at and said, ‘Man, he’s favoring his leg’ or ‘He’s not running as hard as he was before.’ To his credit, he shook it off and played well.
Q: Will you limit him at all this week?
A: We’ll see how he does when we get back in on Wednesday and start practicing and we’ll try and be smart in how we use him in practice as well.
Q: Players believed they had a good team at the beginning of this season but was that also there last season when they went 3-13?
A: 2011 was so difficult with the offseason being the way it was. It’s hard to compare that team to this team, even though a lot of what we’re doing now isn’t a whole lot different than what we did then. It’s just we had the 2012 offseason to really drive home some things that we couldn’t in 2011 so we have some different personnel for sure, but the message and the belief hasn’t really changed but the preparation, which I think is critical to success in our League, is far different, it’s completely different and being able to communicate the message with the time that we’ve had is far different than a year ago.
Q: Is your past success against Washington irrelevant now?
A: It’s completely irrelevant from my standpoint. You guys have heard me say this before, every year in the National Football League is a different year, as we all know. You hear, ‘This team is going to be this this year, this team is going to be that,’ and nobody really cares about it, I guarantee Mike Shanahan and his staff don’t care about what happened when we went to Washington a year ago. We’re not concerned about what happened a year ago. We like to believe we’re a different football team. I’m sure they’re a different football team, I haven’t seen any tape on them but it has no relevancy on what we have to get done this week. I’m sure it will be a different team. I know it’s a different team with a different quarterback for them. We have a lot of work to do to go on the road and win against the Washington Redskins and what happened a year ago or two years ago won’t even be talked about from any of our standpoint, on coaching staff or players. It will be about this team and this 2012 season and what we have to get done.
Q: With Josh Robinson starting the game yesterday, is this the beginning of a transition to him being the starter?
A: I don’t know if that will eventually be the case in 2012. We know at some point, we’re hoping that Josh develops to the point where he can be our starting corner. That’s why we drafted him when we did. We want him to eventually be a starting corner for us. When that transformation occurs, not sure, it will be a part of his development. We know what we’re going to get from Antoine (Winfield). He’s been playing great ball for us in these first five weeks of the season and we’re going to need him throughout the year. Part of what we’re doing is just trying to take some snaps off of Antoine, along with developing Josh and we’re hoping that Josh continues to come along. He’s been playing good for us.
Q: Has Rhett Ellison earned more playing time?
A: You know, I don’t think so at the expense of either one of our tight ends. We still like what Kyle (Rudolph) is doing. We like the things that John (Carlson) is doing. We’d like to be able to obviously get the ball to John a little bit more and get him a little bit more involved but Rhett is about where we’d like him to be at this point as he continues to grow and develop so I don’t think we’ll take any more snaps from the other two guys to give him more snaps. We will get him in the rotation and continue to grow him as a player, but not at the expense of Kyle or John at this point.
Q: Have you ever had as much trouble defending the bubble screen as teams have had against you?
A: I tell you, I look at that play and I think a little bit of it depends on your style of defense, but it definitely creates some problems for defenses when you have a guy like Percy Harvin who when you’re throwing the ball to behind the line of scrimmage, is really a glorified run play, a toss sweep almost, but he’s out in space. He makes big plays even when you have the numbers from a defensive standpoint to make the play, similar to the touchdown. They had the numbers and an individual as talented as he is, makes a play out of nothing. You would like to think they’re going to make that play with the numbers they had but he avoids four different guys and gets into the end zone. It’s problematic because of the guy who’s catching the football more so than the play itself.
Q: Do you run that play more than anybody you’ve seen?
A: I think so. Well, I take that back. If you watch New England, they do it quite a bit to their slot guy, Wes Welker. I don’t see enough tape on people around the league but I know, based on the teams we’ve played, I haven’t seen another team use it as much as we do from the teams we’ve played.
Q: Do you have an update on Harrison Smith from the NFL?
A: Good question. I knew that question would come up. I do have an update. Harrison will not be suspended, he will not be fined. That’s where things are now. Now, we don’t, as I mentioned last night, condone his behavior whatsoever. It’s not smart football. We have to be able to handle our emotions when things get a little bit awry and he knows that. He and I have talked about that. Going forward, we have to do a better job across the board when moments like that occur, being able to walk away from the situation and not cost our team a penalty or a potential dismissal from the game. That’s where things are.
Q: How does he avoid a fine? What did the League tell you?
A: That’s a good question for the League there. I’m glad things worked out well.
Q: How tough is it for defenders to match up with Kyle Rudolph in the end zone?
A: Kyle, his length is as much of a problem as his ability to catch the football. Great hands, big target, obviously, our quarterback likes to look for him in the red zone and he comes through time and time again for Christian [Ponder] and our team. Yes he has great hands, but his length creates problems for defenses. Even when guys are draped on him, if the ball is close, his catching radius is so wide. He makes so many plays and he has strong hands but his length is a problem for a lot of defenders.